Three Chinese nationals who were kidnapped in Mali have been rescued by security forces after they escaped their captors on the weekend, according to the Malian army.
In a statement, the army said the three men were rescued on Monday.
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The Chinese nationals working for the COVEC construction company were abducted by unknown gunmen on July 17.
They were seized along with two Mauritanians from a construction site near the town of Kwala.
The Mauritanians were freed 10 days later.
The Malian army said the remaining captives managed to stage a successful escape on Sunday.
Ground and air forces located the men the following day, in a joint operation whose success was aided by “anonymous people of good will”, the army said.
The escaped hostages are in reasonable health, according to the army, which hailed their “bravery and pugnacity”.
Mali’s presidency also saluted the “courage of the three former hostages” and “congratulated the various armed forces for their professionalism”.
The operation comes only weeks after Colombian nun Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez, who was kidnapped in 2017, was freed in Mali.
Kidnapping has become a lucrative source of cash for groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) in West Africa’s Sahel region, where they are waging an expanding armed uprising against national armies, French forces and United Nations peacekeepers.
French journalist Olivier Dubois, abducted in northern Mali on April 8, has said in a hostage video that the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), the largest alliance of armed groups in the Sahel, had kidnapped him.
Thousands of people have also been killed, and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes in Mali’s conflict, while the economic impact on one of the world’s poorest countries has been devastating.